Living in the Information Society

Publication Date01 Jun 1997
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Living in the Information Society FOCUS
..the changing
face of
Andy Greaves is Executive Sponsor for IBM's community investment programme on IT and social inclusion,
part of
Living in the Information Society series that IBM has been running in the UK since 1995. He is also
Director of the IBM United Kingdom Trust, a registered charity which acts as the vehicle for IBM's communi-
ty investment and charitable donations in the UK.
At the launch of IBM's report The Net
in the
issued in collab-
oration with the Community Development Foundation, he was quoted as saying:
The Information Society is not a magical solution to multiple disadvantages such as poverty, employment
or poor
It is a way in for people to learn new skills, expand their horizons and feel part of society.'
We asked him about his views on living in the Information Society.
you say the Information
Society is a 'way in' for people to
learn new skills, are you referring to
the education of individuals
generally, enhancing their skills for
life, or specifically to skills uniquely
required to exist in the Information
In the Information Society, information technology
and information handing skills will be the skills for
Not only will these skills become more funda-
mental to your job but they will be needed in every
aspect of your life, from allowing easy access to
banking services to helping your children with their
However, these skills need not be prohibitive. There
is currently a huge psychological barrier when it
comes to using new technology and this is largely
associated with the keyboard and computer screen.
This will all change over the next few years, as
access to information and services is likely to be
through more user friendly channels such as your
own television screen.
Technology also provides a 'way in' for socially dis-
advantaged groups: for example, through the IBM
Community Connections Awards, the Liverpool
Social Partnership in Drugs Prevention was able to
equip two new centres for an artskills project. The
project re-introduced disadvantaged young people
who had dropped out of the traditional education
system to alternative training through graphic and
computer aided design, information technology,
drama and creative writing. Using information
nology these students were able to increase their
self-esteem, and an illustration of the success of the
project is the results of the first two courses run. Of
the 85 students who participated in the scheme:
86% achieved qualifications in visual arts;
51 %
went into further and higher education;
19 % went into employment;
9% went into voluntary/community work.
The Information Society is still a very
Western idea, relying as it does on
relatively cheap electronic
equipment and a good
telecommunications infrastructure.
Do you see the information gap
between West and East getting
larger or smaller?
If anything, the Information Society will reduce the
gap between the East and the West. Countries like
Malaysia, Vietnam and China are building high
speed broadband communications superhighways
that will allow them to leapfrog more developed
Information technology has also resulted in shrinking
markets, where geography is no longer an issue,
and lower labour costs can mean that the East gains
competitive advantage in the Information Society.
For example, British Airways has just announced
that it is moving its call centres in Bombay.
Cheap labour
combined with a thirst for
edge as the East embraces opportunities brought
about by the Information Revolution, mean that the
information gap between East and West is definitely
being eroded.
Some people still freeze up when
asked to program a video how are
they going to adapt to the
The Electronic Library,
6, December 1997 473

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